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Brendan Largay, Head of School

Balancing Our Emotional Scales

As we come to the end of week three, I offer here two articles that have been helpful to me as I consider words that folks–including myself–have been throwing around quite a bit this fall: flexibility and resilience.

The articles, one from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, entitled “How to Help Families and Staff Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Outbreak” and the other from Tara Haelle of The Informed Parent entitled “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted–It’s Why You Feel Awful” both speak to how we might intentionally develop the neurological and emotional muscles of resiliency at a time of heightened stress.

In the many conversations I have been having with teachers, parents, and students, I find folks trying to understand and manage the mental and emotional weight that this pandemic forces us to carry. These two articles offer helpful ways to stay healthy that I am sharing to guide those searching for a measure of agency in the face of it all.

In the Harvard article, you will see an illustrated scale, out of balance on its fulcrum, with negative outcomes weighing against positive outcomes in the context of COVID. Three suggestions are offered to balance the scale:

  • reduce the sources of stress on the negative side
  • build up sources of supportive, responsive relationships on the positive side
  • continue to foster and construct core life skills to strengthen yourself and move the fulcrum towards a more positive outcome.

While the weights are likely to affect some of us more than others, these questions resonated with me: Can we identify our stressors and reduce them? How many of us are losing sleep? How much is the pandemic dominating our dialogue around the dinner table? In what ways are we losing touch with those folks who, in more normal times, help keep us in balance and hold us up?

Similarly, how are we intentionally building up our responsive relationships to bolster the positive side of the scale? To whom are you turning throughout this, and how are they helping you to find balance? Have you yet considered what you need from those relationships and asked for it? Where might you find those responsive relationships—at work or with your child’s school?

Finally, to shift the fulcrum, consider what the core skills you need look like today. My best guess is that while many look the same as they did before March, some have changed, and it makes me wonder: Have you built those up to help you better navigate the challenges of this time?

As you ponder all of these questions, I would invite you to turn to the other article I shared about ‘surge capacity.’ In many ways, it is the consequence of being out of balance by the metrics of that first article. It speaks to why we’re all so tired, even as we seek to restore ourselves by returning to school and work. It speaks to how our internal processes in times of great stress have been on overdrive since March. To suggest that it is unsustainable may be the understatement of the school year. And yet, it provided more insight into why there are those moments nowadays when our tanks are truly empty. More than that, though, it offers reminders about how we might refuel—mentally and emotionally.

For me, a significant source for refueling has come this week. The sounds and sights of our campus full of children and faculty inspired and challenged at every turn, have replenished my energy and ignited joy. I hope you and yours can find what you need to refuel this weekend and that these articles will help some in that effort.

How to Help Families and Staff Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Outbreak, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted–It’s Why You Feel Awful, by Tara Haelle for Medium

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